A few weeks ago I received an email from Jeff, another Texan living in Berlin who is also training with Steve House’s program. We even went to the same university, although at different times. What are the chances? He’s about to launch his own blog in the near future, and I’ll provide a link to it once it’s up and running.
Jeff and I met up and talked about our New Alpinism training. There were a few topics that both of us have busted our heads over; the main one is that Berlin and Potsdam are so darn flat that we are forced to get creative if we want to avoid the dreaded box step. Jeff has probably found the solution, namely the Teufelsberg in the Grunewald forest. The Teufelsberg is not a natural mountain; it is the remains of Berlin from after the war, piled up in a gigantic heap of rubble. Interestingly, for you history buffs, the rubble was shoveled on top of the building facades of the Nazi Military Technical College (a life-size model was built, but the structures themselves were not), which was designed by Albert Speer. So in a way, repeat hill ascents on the ‘Devil’ are a way of grinding Nazism under your boot heel. But I digress…
Jeff and I were both interested, though, in how we should account for our commutes in our training plans. Most Americans spend much more time in their cars than we do: they drive to the gym, drive to work, drive to go shopping, drive to pick up the kids, and even drive to go do their outdoor workouts. This has one benefit, namely that workouts have a very specific start and finish. When you’re filling out your Training Log, you pretty much know exactly what to write down. But if you take the car out of the equation, and add a lot of time on your feet and your bicycle, then things start to look different when you’re developing your training plan.
I’ve been tracking my movements on and off now for about a month, and here’s what came out.
– Cycling. When the weather is not completely awful, I ride my bike to work. I only started this in November, when I started my new job at the University of Potsdam. My commute includes taking my son to kindergarten and then continuing on to the office. The whole trip takes about 20-30 minutes each way. I wore a heart rate monitor this morning, and my average heart rate was 125, which is right in the middle of my Zone 1. Let’s just say that I ride my bike to work three days a week (50 minutes / day, 150 minutes / week), and that I take six weeks off a year (standard for Europeans). That means 46 weeks a year X 150 minutes / week = 6900 minutes / year, or 115 hours spent cycling in Zone 1. Now consider that the annual training volume I tracked last year was just under 200 hours (excluding commuting). And that’s not including the weekly shopping run, when I take the Chariot to the grocery store and drag it home behind my bike with about 20 kg / 44 lbs. in it.
– Walking. We walk a ton, and that’s even when we don’t intend to. For example: from my house to the tram stop: 300 m. From my house to downtown Potsdam: 1.8 km. Walking to Emil’s kindergarten: 1.5 km. When the weather is decent on the weekends, and the children are healthy, we often go on 4-8 km walks. Now walking around Potsdam is not like walking up a scree-filled 45-degree slope, but it does get my heart rate above its resting level, and sometimes into low Zone 1. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I cover about 2 km a day on foot, which takes about 20 minutes. I’ll spare you the math this time, but that adds up to 120 hours a year, and let’s just say that 25% of that is spent in Zone 1 (which is easy if you’re lugging home groceries, or carrying a heavy three-year-old, or chasing said three-year-old around the forest).
So, in the course of my everyday life in one year, I probably spend about 145 hours in Zone 1.
I’m not sure whether to include this in my training plan. For now, I’m just going to track it separately and see what happens. On one hand, commuting and walking both represent time spent in the target zones, and the effort for commuting in particular is very steady for at least 30 minutes a day. On the other hand, does it count as endurance work if you’re only doing 15-minute efforts at a time? This isn’t a big deal later in the Annual Training Plan, but during the Transition Phase (for which I have allocated two hours a week), it means that I’m already getting 2.5 hours in, just commuting to work. I don’t think I can just write down 2.5 hours and call it a day; I still need to spend at least one hour running and about one hour total on the core and general strength routines. Otherwise I’d feel like I’m not really training.
Are there any other alpinists, mountaineers, climbers, runners, or cyclists out there who have any tips on how to account for their commute times in their training? I’d be interested to hear about your experiences.